What’s it like to be a “real” firefighter?

It’s not a question reserved for young children dreaming of what they’ll do when they grow up.

But while a child can’t put on fire-fighting gear and head toward real flames, a group of 10 Ripon adults did exactly that this spring.

The Ripon Area Fire District (RAFD) completed its first-ever Citizen’s Fire Academy Tuesday night, in which “regular” people from across the community literally got to walk in the shoes of local firefighters.

Over the course of 10 weeks this spring, a group of Riponites gathered each Tuesday evening for class. Among those involved? EMTs, educators, family members of actual firefighters and others.

These students tried out numerous aspects of fire-fighting, from learning how to perform extrications at car crashes to practicing a water rescue in a local pool — to putting out actual fires.

It’s an experience that left participants enthralled.

“I have always appreciated firefighters and the dedication they have to their community,” said Brenda Hahn, who participated in the course. “By taking part in the fire academy, I have a whole new appreciation. I learned just how much knowledge firefighters possess in order to assess and battle fires.”

That, RAFD Chief Tim Saul explained, was exactly what the course was designed to do.

“We wanted to give citizens an idea of what it’s like to be a firefighter, what our needs are, what our challenges are,” Saul said.

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